John Gregory, Mark Stanifer and I continue discussing balance and how it applies in the married or single life.
John: It seems there are two things to consider for keeping balanced in the marriage relationship. One, what do you individually have to do to bring balance to the relationship. Second, how does the couple work together to keep balance in check.
Tonya: There was a moment, probably half through our marriage that God spoke clearly to me, that as a couple we don’t complete each other, we complement each other. Only God completes us, He’s our true soul mate. My spouse can help me grow in my spiritual walk, but he doesn’t help me to feel whole or complete. It’s through my intimate walk with the Lord, that I feel complete. I still want and desire intimate connection with my husband, but the closer I am with the Lord the less I need it from him.
John: That reminds me of the triangle/pyramid illustration for marriage you’ve probably both seen where the two in the marriage are at the bottom on either end and God is at the top. The more the two work toward God the closer they get to one another.
Mark: I literally just drew that on my notes.
John: As simple as that is, it seems to be an easy tool to evaluate where I am working toward God as a person and also how we are working together toward Him.
Tonya: That speaks to singles also. God is the true lover of our souls, they don’t need a spouse to complete them. I remember my dad used to use the picture of a coffee cup to illustrate this. If our cup is full of the Lord with everything else on the rim, should one thing fall off, our cup is still full. It’s not that it won’t be painful, if we lose a spouse, child or important relationship, or a career falls apart. However, we can survive if our cup is full of the Lord.
Mark: In order to have a healthy marriage, you really have to see yourself as healthy and whole first! Not expecting all your needs to be met in the other person but in God. There is nuance and tension between relationship and companionship. It’s foundational to not look at the other person as meeting all your needs, or you’re going to be disappointed.
Tonya: Because no person is capable of that.
John: In being a married person, what do you have to keep in check in your relationship with God?
Tonya: I’ve been writing a series on preventing leadership exhaustion and just recently wrote on this issue. When you choose to get married and have children, you choose to dedicate a quantity of your time and energy to them. Those relationships need focused time to be healthy. It becomes more challenging to make sure you’re still nurturing your time with the Lord. You have to be more intentional about your time balance. Making sure you get your individual time with the Lord as well as have a spiritual relationship together; praying, reading and discussing the word, etc.
Mark: From a different angle, there is an opportunity in a marriage to more deeply grasp what is means to love unconditionally. By love I mean way beyond the emotion and feeling. It’s the service, sacrifice, and action of unconditionally loving this companion. You get this tangible opportunity to love this person in the way that Jesus loves us. I’m not sure that is about balance as much as the opportunity marriage presents in what it means to love someone.
John: There’s more on the plate-another person, kids, so the balance is keeping a healthy relationship with God based on what’s currently on my plate.
Tonya: One activity I do with the leaders I work with is draw a bullseye. Relationship with God, following His will is the bullseye. If married, your spouse is the next ring, if a parent, your kids next, then your family and friends, and then your ministry. I would ask, “How do you do minister starting with God and moving through your marriage, and out to the outer rings?” The idea is that you don’t just make your own decisions. It has to be what God’s asking you and right for your family first, then out through your ministry. This was one area my husband talked about, we’ve always made big decisions together-work decisions, moving decisions, etc. They take time and money, and impact everybody. So many of the leaders I work with have trouble grasping the impact of their decisions on their whole family. So this idea of using the bull’s eye was a different way to help them see it.
Mark: That’s an excellent point of being on the same page. Tonya, you and your husband are different. My wife and I are very similar, so it’s fairly natural for us to be together on a decision and think the same way. That comes very easy. For others who have differing personalities, it may be harder but it’s not less important.
Tonya: For sure, we totally see the world through completely different lenses. So on some decisions it comes back to our value of commitment. We meant our vows and the commitment we made to one another on our wedding day, so we choose to stay engaged and work through the harder areas. A lot of couples fall apart in those moments because they lack the value of commitment to each other and not just ‘my way’.
Mark: The picture coming to my mind is the balance between giving and getting in a relationship. If both people work to be about giving first before getting, it’s like the oil that just makes the machine work better. The machine may break down at times, but the oil provides the lubrication when the friction comes when you are doing life together. Staying focused on the giving part first makes it more likely you’ll get the things you need out of the relationship as well.
Tonya: That’s right. When you are focused on giving and not getting, your spouse will most of the time turn around and give back. You’ll get what you want when your heart is to give. It’s that upside down thing we talked about before. God’s kingdom is not the way the world’s kingdom is.
Continued next week – we’ll be focusing on balancing grace and forgiveness in marriage!